Mental illness, Morrissey and Guinea Pigs are the core subject matter of this intriguing and extremely heartfelt story of The More You Ignore Me, which follows a young girl’s coming of age as she has to grapple with the depths of families troubles and tries to find a path for herself amongst all of it.
Based on Jo Brand’s critically acclaimed novel of the same name, The More You Ignore Me is a warm, comedy-drama focusing on the life of an unconventional family in 1980s rural England. The film focuses on Gina, a young mother, whose efforts to be a loving mother and wife are undermined by her declining mental health. Over the years, as she grows up, her daughter Alice struggles to relate to her heavily medicated mum and causes chaos when she comes up with a plan to reconnect with her, which divides the family forever and leads to a moving climax. Set to the songs of The Smiths, The More You Ignore Me provides a sometimes stark, yet comical insight into life within this quirky household, whilst addressing mental health issues and their impact on the family.
Taking its name from the classic Smiths song, The More You Ignore Me is the feature debut of British director Keith English, and here this filmmaker examines a family undergoing considerable stresses in a very lively and heartfelt story. Set in Sheffield in the late 1970s to mid-1980s, England’s focus is on that of Alice (Ella Hunt), a young woman who is having to grow up amidst the mania of her mother Gina’s (Sheridan Smith) considerable mental illness, and having to navigate the hardships that it places on her life. Part comedy, part drama, The More You Ignore Me is a very original tale and audiences sure get taken on an emotional ride with this one. Whether its tragedy or comedy, you’ll find all of it in English’s film, and his handling of this subject matter makes for a very intriguing piece of cinema.
Within this film, praise must be levelled on actress Ella Hunt, whom as our protagonist Alice has to show a wide range of emotions throughout this narrative as she grows up in a less than stable environment. There’s a deep authenticity to Hunt’s portrayal of Alice and you completely buy into her lived experience as Alice and the difficulties that she has to overcome. Her escape from her often depressing home life is the music of The Smiths and a growing infatuation with lead singer Morrissey. Fans of the cult British band will be in sync with Alice’s love for The Smiths, and Hunt brings an amazing sense of honesty to the role of Alice, and you completely buy into her desire to escape. But in the end, it’s only through accepting her mother that she can truly be set free and this is where the film finds its heart-warming soul.
Along with its exploration of a frayed and often complicated portrait of a very eccentric nuclear family, The More You Ignore Me also works to present an incredibly realistic portrayal of mental health and the sometimes harsh realities that come from having to contend with it. English, along with his cast, don’t hold back in portraying the struggles that severe mental illness can cause people and it’s often heart-breaking to see Gina’s delusions coming to the forefront and the harm they do to her and others around them. Part of the message of The More You Ignore Me is built around an understanding of mental illness, and how those who come to know it have to learn to live with it and manage it. There are no stigmas placed upon it here in the film, and English and his cast and crew do their best to represent the mentally ill and those around them in the most normal light possible.
From start to finish, The More You Ignore Me is an incredibly rich and eccentric film that delivers plenty of heart. It can at times be a hard watch due to its subject matter, but its message of acceptance and striving to live the best life you can is certainly endearing and because of this it’s an incredibly worthwhile watch.
Image: 387 Distribution